As a DJ or producer, you know that having the best studio headphones is crucial for achieving top-quality audio for your mixes or productions. High-grade studio headphones allow you to accurately monitor sound levels and make precise adjustments to your mixes.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into everything you need to know to choose the best studio headphones for your needs, including the different types, their key specifications, and top models for various applications.
Important note: Studio headphones are very different compared to DJ headphones, but can still be used for DJing. This article is focused more for the DJs who are also producers. For an in-depth roundup of the best DJ headphones, check out this guide.
Top 5 Best Studio Headphones
Choosing the right headphones for studio work can be a daunting task, but we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 best studio headphones to make your decision easier.
Whether you’re a professional sound engineer or a home recording enthusiast, these headphones offer exceptional sound quality and comfort, making them ideal for long studio sessions.
From the Focal Listen Professional Studio Headphones to the Ultimate Ears UE 18+ Pro, each headphone on this list has its unique features and benefits, ensuring that you can find the perfect pair to suit your needs and budget.
Getting Started: The Basics
Studio headphones are designed to deliver accurate sound reproduction while providing a comfortable listening experience during long studio sessions. When selecting the best studio headphones, it’s essential to consider factors such as frequency response, impedance, and sensitivity. Additionally, the type of headphones (over-ear, on-ear, or in-ear monitors) and their open-back or closed-back design are crucial factors to keep in mind.
Exploring the Types of Studio Headphones
Over-ear headphones are the most popular type of studio headphones among DJs and producers. Offering the best sound isolation and comfort for extended studio sessions, some of the best over-ear models include the Sennheiser HD 600 and the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x.
- 40mm mylar/titanium drivers
- 15Hz-22kHz frequency response
- 32 ohm impedance
On-ear headphones are smaller and lighter than over-ear headphones, making them more portable. While they provide decent sound isolation and comfort, they might not be as comfortable for lengthy studio sessions. Top on-ear models include the Beats Solo Pro.
In-ear monitors are the most portable type of studio headphones, providing excellent sound isolation and comfort during long periods of use. Some of the best in-ear monitor models are the Shure SE215 and the Westone W40.
- Road-tested by musicians
- Full range sound
- Customized fit - Includes three sizes (S, M, L) of the flex and black foam sleeves
- Sound isolated technology that blocks up to 37 dB of noise
- Wireform fit ensures earphones stay in place and cables remain out of the way
- Durable reinforced cable that can be replace
- Compact carrying case
Open-Back vs. Closed-Back Headphones: The Great Debate
Studio headphones come in two primary designs: open-back and closed-back. Each type offers its benefits and drawbacks.
Open-back headphones, on the other hand, have an open back that allows sound to escape from the headphones. This results in a more natural and spacious sound that many producers prefer for critical listening.
One of the downsides of open-back headphones is that they don’t isolate sound as well as closed-back headphones. This means that they’re not ideal for use in noisy environments or situations where you don’t want to disturb others. Additionally, they tend to leak sound, which can be a problem if you’re recording in the same room as someone else.
Some of the best open-back models include the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro.
- Open studio reference class headphones for mixing and mastering, Made in Germany
- 250 ohms, 45 mm dynamic Tesla neodymium drivers
- Single sided, detachable cable with mini-XLR connectors
- Soft, replaceable ear pads and headband for long studio sessions. Headphone frequency response : 5-40,000 Hz. Nominal sound pressure level : 102 dBSPL (1mW/500Hz)
- Delivery contents: 2 ear pads with different sound characteristics (analytical and well-balanced), two pairs of cables (3m straight and coiled), premium hard case
Closed-back headphones, on the other hand, are designed to isolate the sound that you’re listening to. They have a sealed back that prevents sound from leaking in or out of the headphones. This makes them ideal for use in noisy environments or situations where you don’t want to disturb others.
Additionally, closed-back headphones tend to have a more pronounced bass response than open-back headphones. This makes them a great choice for producers who need to monitor bass-heavy tracks accurately.
Top closed-back models include the Sony MDR-7506 and the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x.
Which One Should You Choose?
The choice between closed-back and open-back headphones ultimately depends on your personal preference and the type of work you’ll be doing.
If you need to monitor bass-heavy tracks accurately or work in noisy environments, closed-back headphones may be the better choice.
If you prefer a more natural and spacious sound, and you work in a quiet environment, open-back headphones may be the way to go.
What to Look For in Studio Headphones
When shopping for the best studio headphones, understanding key specifications is crucial.
Frequency response range is the range of frequencies that headphones can reproduce. For studio headphones, it’s important to have a flat frequency response range.
This means that the headphones do not emphasize any particular frequency over others. Ideally, the headphones should have a frequency response range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, which is the range of human hearing.
Impedance is the measure of electrical resistance in headphones. It’s important to match the impedance of the headphones with the output impedance of the audio source.
If the impedance is too high, the headphones may not receive enough power, resulting in a low volume. If the impedance is too low, the headphones may receive too much power, resulting in distortion. For studio headphones, a range of 32 to 80 ohms is recommended.
Sensitivity indicates the amount of sound pressure a headphone can produce. The ideal range for studio headphones is 90 to 120 dB.
Comfort and Fit
Comfort and fit are important factors to consider when choosing studio headphones. You’ll likely be wearing them for long periods of time, so you want to make sure they’re comfortable. Look for headphones with soft earpads and an adjustable headband.
It’s also important to consider the weight of the headphones. Heavy headphones can cause discomfort over time.
When it comes to fit, it’s important to choose headphones that fit snugly but not too tightly. Headphones that are too tight can cause discomfort and even headaches, while headphones that are too loose can affect the sound quality. Look for headphones with an adjustable headband and ear cups that swivel and pivot to fit your head shape.
Noise Isolation and Leakage
Noise isolation is the ability of headphones to block out external noise. Closed-back headphones provide better noise isolation than open-back headphones. This is important in a studio environment where external noise can interfere with the recording or mixing process. However, it’s important to note that noise isolation can also lead to ear fatigue, so it’s important to take breaks and give your ears a rest.
Search for headphones with excellent noise isolation to minimize sound leakage and external noise. Some popular models with good noise isolation include the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro and the AKG K371.
Wired vs. Wireless Studio Headphones: Making the Choice
When it comes to studio headphones, one of the most debated topics is whether to go for wired or wireless headphones. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each option.
Wired Headphones Pros
- Better sound quality: Wired headphones tend to have better sound quality than wireless ones as there is no loss of signal due to wireless transmission.
- No latency issues: Wired headphones have no latency issues as there is no delay in transmitting audio signals.
- No battery required: Wired headphones do not require a battery to operate, which means you can use them for as long as you want without worrying about running out of power.
- Lower cost: Wired headphones are generally less expensive than wireless headphones, making them a more economical option.
- Less mobility: Wired headphones are tethered to the device they are connected to, which limits mobility and can be inconvenient in certain situations.
- Potential for tangling: Wired headphones have the potential to become tangled, which can be frustrating to deal with.
Wireless Headphones Pros
- Greater mobility: Wireless headphones offer greater mobility as they are not tethered to the device they are connected to, which can be convenient in certain situations.
- No tangling: Wireless headphones eliminate the risk of tangling, making them easier to use and store.
- Lower sound quality: Wireless headphones tend to have lower sound quality than wired headphones because of the loss of signal due to wireless transmission.
- Latency issues: Wireless headphones can have latency issues due to the delay in transmitting audio signals wirelessly.
- Battery required: Wireless headphones require a battery to operate, which means you need to keep them charged or have spare batteries on hand.
- Higher cost: Wireless headphones are generally more expensive than wired headphones, making them a less economical option.
In conclusion, the decision to go for wired or wireless headphones depends on your personal preferences and needs. If you prioritize sound quality and don’t mind being tethered to your device, wired headphones may be the better option for you. On the other hand, if you value mobility and convenience over sound quality, wireless headphones may be the way to go.
Budget Studio Headphones
If you’re on a budget, there are still fantastic options available. Top picks under $100 include the:
Premium Studio Headphones
If you’re seeking the best sound quality, you’ll want to invest in a pair of premium studio headphones.
Top picks over $300 include the:
For headphones over $500, consider the:
Studio Headphones for Different Applications
Various types of studio headphones are better suited for specific applications.
Mixing and Mastering
For mixing and mastering, you’ll want headphones with a flat frequency response and excellent soundstage.
Some of the best headphones for mixing include the:
- Sennheiser HD 650 and;
- Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro
For recording, headphones with good noise isolation and minimal sound leakage are ideal.
Some popular models for recording include the:
- Audio-Technica ATH-M50x and;
- AKG K240
Editing and Post-production
For editing and post-production, headphones with a flat frequency response and a fantastic soundstage are essential.
Popular models for this purpose include the:
- Sony MDR-7506 and;
- Audio-Technica ATH-M40x
Caring for Your Studio Headphones: Tips and Tricks
Studio headphones can be expensive, so it’s crucial to take proper care of them. Here are some tips for maintaining and extending their lifespan:
- Store your headphones in a cool, dry place.
- Clean your headphones regularly with a soft cloth.
- Replace the earpads and headband cushions when they begin to wear out.
- Avoid dropping your headphones or exposing them to moisture.
When selecting the best studio headphones, it’s essential to consider factors such as type, design, frequency response, impedance, and sensitivity. Additionally, consider the specific application you’ll be using them for and ensure they’re comfortable for extended studio sessions.
Budget-minded shoppers can find excellent options under $100 and $200, while those seeking the best sound quality have a variety of models available over $300 and $500.
Lastly, maintaining and caring for your studio headphones is vital to extend their lifespan and get the most out of your investment.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I use consumer-grade headphones for studio work?
While you can use consumer-grade headphones for studio work, they won’t provide the same level of sound quality and accuracy as professional-grade studio headphones.
2. How often should I replace my studio headphones?
The frequency of replacement depends on how often you use them and how well you take care of them. Generally, expect to replace your studio headphones every 3-5 years.
3. Are there any significant differences between popular brands?
Yes, there are notable differences between popular brands. Each brand has its unique sound signature, so it’s essential to listen to various models to find the one that best suits your needs.
4. Is it worth investing in multiple pairs of studio headphones for different applications?
Yes, having multiple pairs of studio headphones for different applications can be beneficial. This allows you to achieve the best sound quality for each type of work.
5. What’s the best way to test studio headphones before purchasing?
The most effective way to test studio headphones is to listen to them in person. Most retailers will allow you to try them out before buying. Additionally, you can read reviews from other users to get a better idea of how the headphones sound.
6. What is the difference between reference headphones and studio headphones?
Reference headphones are a type of studio headphone designed to provide the most accurate and neutral sound possible. They’re ideal for mixing and mastering applications, where an uncolored and precise representation of the audio is crucial. Studio headphones, in general, may have a slightly different sound signature depending on the brand and model, but reference headphones prioritize accuracy above all else.
7. How do I choose the best studio wireless headphones?
When choosing the best studio wireless headphones, consider factors such as sound quality, comfort, battery life, and connectivity. Look for models that offer low-latency Bluetooth codecs such as aptX, aptX Low Latency, or LDAC for the best audio quality and minimal lag. Some popular wireless studio headphone models include the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT and the Sennheiser PXC 550-II.
8. Do I need a headphone amplifier for my studio headphones?
A headphone amplifier can enhance the sound quality and drive high-impedance headphones more effectively. While not always necessary, a dedicated headphone amplifier can provide more power and control, improving the overall listening experience. If your studio headphones have an impedance above 250 ohms, it’s generally recommended to use a headphone amplifier.
9. What makes a pair of studio headphones suitable for DJing?
DJ headphones should offer excellent sound isolation, allowing the DJ to hear the music clearly in loud environments. They should also be durable, with a flexible headband and swiveling ear cups for single-ear monitoring. Some popular DJ headphone models include the Pioneer DJ HDJ-X10 and the Sennheiser HD 25.
10. How do I determine the right balance between sound quality, comfort, and budget when choosing studio headphones?
Finding the perfect balance between sound quality, comfort, and budget involves researching and trying out different models within your price range. Read reviews, ask for recommendations from professionals or peers, and, if possible, test out the headphones in person. This will help you identify the ideal pair of studio headphones that meet your requirements and fit within your budget.